Pope elevates to sainthood parents of 'little flower'

The parents of French saint Therese of Lisieux, dubbed "The Little Flower" were raised to sainthood too in Sunday, in a move Pope Francis hopes will underscore the importance of the family.

AFP| Updated: Oct 18, 2015, 20:41 PM IST

Vatican City: The parents of French saint Therese of Lisieux, dubbed "The Little Flower" were raised to sainthood too in Sunday, in a move Pope Francis hopes will underscore the importance of the family.

Louis and Zelie Martin were the very picture of charitableness: they helped the sick and dying, gave alms to beggars, ensured hospital care for the very ill and took in a child whose family could not look after him.

They also raised the girl who Pope Pius X is believed to have declared "the greatest saint of modern times".

The ceremony to canonise the couple comes two-thirds of the way through a global Church council on the family, which the pontiff is keen to hold up as the key social unit for nurturing faith and setting good examples.

"The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin practised Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters," Francis said during the mass.

In an interview with Paris-Match this week, the pontiff described the couple as "evangelists... Who opened their door" to those in need in a period in which "a certain bourgeoisie ethic was contemptuous of the poor".

Louis and Zelie, who died in 1894 and 1887 respectively, had nine children, four of whom died at a young age, while the other five all became nuns.

Louis had initially intended to become a monk, but after being rejected because he did not know Latin well enough, he met and fell in love with Zelie in Alencon in Normandy, marrying her three months later in 1858.

The pair first intended to live as brother and sister, but were persuaded to have children by a priest.

Their youngest child, Marie-Francoise Therese Martin - also known as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face - was born in 1873, became a cloistered nun aged 15 and died of tuberculosis nine years later.

She was raised to sainthood in 1925 by Pope Pius XI and in 1997 made a doctor of the Church by John Paul II -- a rare honour signifying that her writings and preachings are useful to Christians.